Thursday, May 8, 2014
True Confessions of a Homeless Man
This is a true confessions type deal, I guess. Just a means to talk about where I am currently. I guess some people are hoping that I will admit to not doing everything within my power to get out. I can do this, or that, and poof everything would instantly be better. Ah, the good ole real world will crush you under its foot, leaving a smear behind.
See the descent into poverty is swift, homelessness is as well, but each case is different. For me and mine, it took about 6 years to end up here. That does not include the two years I have spent here trying to get out. In 8 short years I went from kicking arse and chewing gum, to practically begging for money.
If you all recall way back when I started this blog I had an entry called Welcome to the Animal Farm, where I showed a bunch of animals. You might be surprised, but they were all mine. In a past life 8 years ago, I was a farmer, it was not uncommon for me to walk around with a few hundred dollars in my pocket. I was able to go buy a brand new F150, paid cash for it as well. Hell, the Brahman bull pictured made me three grand a pop. People paid me that much just to stick a heifer in the field with him and pray that it bred to him. I once sold ten head of cattle for $15,000, just because I wanted rid of them all. That is called the high life there, for a small family farm, that was the exception, not the rule. I managed to get into a niche, dairy goats which we used milk to raise other animals along with the kids (baby goats) that came along. The little Buffalo, that was Dakota, raised and given to us as a result of working with a Buffalo farmer. The horses all rescued from abusive owners, most of the cows were half dead when they were abandoned at sale. The others were cattle that the owners did not want as calves. Ole Boss, the Brahman, was the same. His owner said he would be worthless in the show ring (4 time Permanent Grand National Champion), would be worthless as a breeder (which he put some of the sweetest giants on the ground), and should be destroyed. I took him rather than seeing that happen, and he paid me well for my kindness. I cried when he died, something that did not happen often in my career.
In his prime he weighed in at one and a quarter ton, that is 2500 pounds. See of all the things we as a family farm managed to survive (BSE scares, beef price plummets, etc.), what we could not survive was the inconsideration of neighbors. See, in the country dogs roam, and for the most part, people accept that dogs are just tamed wolves, wolves prey on other animals. I have seen very horrible things that result from allowing your pet Lassie to roam. Lassie it turns out often turns into Cujo when you aren't watching. After several dog attacks, hemorrhaging money, I started doing what all farmers do, we protect our pets, we protect our livelihood, we protect our investment. Well someone whose dog was mine dead to rights gut shot that bull with a .22. After I caught it ripping the leg off a goat, I put it down in a humane fashion. Yes, its horrible that I could say and do that with ease, but I do not shy away from what I have done. It took Ole Boss four days to die. But instantly, the main cash crop the farm had was gone, all because people couldn't understand I was trying to protect my job, my stock in this life. Honestly, it requires give and take to live around a farm, however I had given more than I had taken, but it's over now. If you want to say what a horrible person I am, fine.
After that we found out that one of our lenders was on our farms deed as a co-owner, and he decided to run amok. First killing a logging contract to clear off land we couldn't use. Next it was a contract for a cell tower on one of the ridges we owned. Finally he demanded an outrageous sum of money in return for his name being removed as a co-owner. Our lawyer at the time advised us we could loose the farm now, or loose it later. We choose to loose it later, assuming we could sell the farm clear him, give us enough money to get another parcel of land, but it never worked out. When we finally got put out on the street, we lost just about everything we owned, and the remainder of the livestock we had sold for around $5,000. That was ten head of cattle, a few goats, and a few sheep. At that time I was working a secondary job, my father was still able to work, and my mom was unable to do much of anything do to several strokes.
My parents went to live with a guy my Dad worked with. I did as well for a while, until I shoved some paperwork in a drawer in the room we had, and was kicked out because it was his wife's drawer. I went to stay with my supervisor, a kind older lady. It was crowded, her, her son, his wife and two children. The house was in poor repair, and I would shower and do laundry at a co-workers home. I kept working though. Eventually my Dads co-worker kicked him out, and put my parents in a motel room. We had been searching for a home, and eventually found one for sale, we put a contract on it, and since nothing had trashed our credit we were able to get a loan per-approved for the home.
We loaded up the rest of what we owned, everything we had managed to save from the last incident, and we took possession of the home. We later found out about all the problems with the home. My father started a severe decline in his health and cognitive function. All told the time in that home saw my Mom rebound from most of her medical issues, but his health declined rapidly. All told he missed a years worth of work due to a Brown Recluse spider bite. Required a pacemaker, and several stints put into his heart. The owner of the home constantly told him, if we made the repairs to the home he would work with us, but wasn't a he. This is personal to me, because this story is about me and mine. A few days before we were put out, my father was laid off from his job. He would be unable to return to any job, as his physical and mental heath started to decline further. This was a man who worked from the time he was 16 years old, and is now 72 years old. My mother, worked the same period of time, until she was in her mid-60s. Both labor intensive jobs.
On May 20, 2012 we were put out on the street, with promises that we would be repaid for our work. May 8, 2014, it has been nearly two years living in a hotel room, and a tent. I guess its time to talk about the true confessions part. I lied to many people when we lost the farm. I never talked about the hundred Alpacas that were stolen, the money never recovered, or how that man got on the deed as a co-owner. Honestly both of my parents should have seen it coming when they never got any loan documents. It is embarrassing to know that you got screwed twice, and that the people doing the screwing were friends. I told people we lost the home in a fire, which spread to the barns. Most would have known anyway, they were from outside the area. Only my closest friends knew, some of my co-workers, even my Boss didn't know I was couch surfing. I worked on. When I got into the house, I traded a rifle to get some help from a co-worker, because I didn't have the money to pay anyone to help.
When everything came down again, I told my boss, who was very understanding, but after several months of being unable to find something closer in, not having sites closer to where I was, and the instances of threats against myself and my family, I was forced out of my job. It was ironically five months to the day that I found myself without a real home. It was my senior year of college, I managed to finish, graduate with honors, and none of my peers knew. In July of that year a massive storm came through, and I just explained to my adviser that we had lost our home to flooding, not that we had been swindled by a silver tongued preacher man of God. I think I told one professor that lie as well, because without power, there was no internet to turn in assignments, let alone passable roads. But to admit I got suckered given what I studied in college, yeah, you can see why I rarely come clean on it.
From there we ended up in a campground where the co-owners constantly locked the bathhouse, leaving us unable to bath. A place where people placed bets on how long our tent would stand. We survived the Frankenstorm in that tent, just as my parents had survived the July 4 storm (I was out of gas at a gas station). We used food-banks for food most times, my savings was gone, my parents were left dependent on my dads Social security, and retirements. After rent, and medications, they were tapped. The whole "We'll make it right" had completely ruined them, something that we have yet to get sorted out two years later. Its hard when you loose your medical insurance, and your savings within a month, because once again you were suckered in by promises.
This is not a cry for attention, I am just putting it out there now, just to save yourself from that aspect. It is not a cry for help, but it probably should be. This is the cry of a man who is not even middle aged, sitting back wondering where have all the people who care have gone. Even in my best times, I never begrudged anyone if I could help it. If someone asked me for money, no matter who badly they acted the part of being in need, I gave. It was always worth it to me to know that if they needed it or not, they had. But here I sit in need, and I get largely ignored. Yeah, I own up to my mistakes, I should have known many things were wrong, I should have been more assertive with some business deals, and I wasn't. I trusted my parents, and who reading this wouldn't? But here is the thing I always try to explain to people. Personal responsibility is a two way street. I can only be responsible for my own actions, not the collateral damage from the actions of others. I seemingly have found myself in the position of being caught up in the actions of others, and I get left to hold the goody bag, like so many other people.
This does not apply to just poverty and homelessness. This applies to pregnancy, it applies to getting an STD, it applies to so many situations that we encounter in our daily lives. And if I need to spell the reasons out for you, maybe someone else can.
The Richardson Family Charity